So you are trying to evolve? Carve out your own path? Start a painstaking journey that everybody just won’t understand? At some point in our lives, we all start to wake up to the many good and not so good influences on our decision making and sometimes these are coming from those we love most. Without saying, we love them no matter what, but sometimes we just need some space to figure our S out on our own and make mistakes if we have to. I know for sure that I would not be the woman I am today if I didn’t go against the grain and make some really awesome, yet terrible decisions. The most important step to making a solid decision is knowing for whatever reason, it feels right in your heart.
Some of us are more foggy upstairs than others when it comes to knowing what we want. Maybe we know what we want, but it’s a little more complicated than following a set path to success or finding the right mate. Maybe we need to be okay with the “I’m going through a phase right now” feeling. You know, we’ve all felt the wincing stares. Sometimes you just need to show up to Christmas dinner with a lip ring or hand over your entire paycheck to REI without ever going camping before. It’s these times when you might not get any closer to knowing what you want, but you definitely get closer to knowing what you don’t want and sometimes that’s just as important. The more we practice listening to our own thoughts and feelings, the more we will be able to explore who we are in this very moment, leading us to our better selves.
The first step to being in tune with your own thoughts and feelings is to practice being able to lower the “external chatter.” When I describe external chatter, I am defining it as the positive and negative reinforcements coming from outside ourselves, which in turn help define who we are and what we do. This can be in the form of direct conversations with friends and mentors who help us grow, and it can also be the passive aggressive glance at the dinner table from your boyfriend’s mother when you tell her what you want to do with your life. This external chatter can have an incredible amount of weight on us. I am here to help you navigate through all of this chatter and channel it into productivity, which you can use to your advantage. Let’s go a little deeper and start with learning how to deal with purely negative external chatter. This sounds super easy but it can get a little complicated if it’s coming from someone we love and look up to. So first thing’s first… We’ve accepted that we can’t live to please someone else. Yes? Okay good. And we’ve accepted that we can’t simply lie to whomever we are trying to please and fabricate a life that isn’t true, because holy hell, that’s just too much work. Yes? Great. Oh, and we’ve acknowledged that the life we are trying to live is not hurting anyone? Okay let’s move on, as I’m pretty sure that as long as we aren’t hurting anyone and are acting in good faith as an upstanding citizen, then anyone going against the grain in your life can in fact be put into the category of negative external chatter… just making sure!
So we’ve established that this negative external chatter is coming from someone or someone(s) who has been in a heavy influence in your life and for some reason, they just aren’t accepting your new ways. The first step we need to practice lowering their influence on us is to build your “Aura Shield.” Ah! I am getting the look! If you aren’t cool with the new-agey-hippie-dippy talk, this is fine, we can call it a Negative Energy Shield. The very first moment when we start to talk about what feels right in our heart and we are met with opposing forces, we must first learn to recognize that it is happening. I want you to label this exact feeling with a mental code word. Seriously! I use a word I made up, “zingbo” because this is clearly not a word I use for anything else. I start to mentally repeat this word in my mind, and envision a beautiful glowing forcefield around my body. It slowly gets brighter and stronger as the negative influencer is talking at me until all I feel is happiness and safety. It’s kind of a funny feeling because you are in fact experiencing an inside joke with yourself and no one else knows. If you are thinking I’m nuts, try it yourself. It works in almost any negative situation. Our minds are so powerful and when we are children, we are taught to use our imagination to help us when we are frightened. Why not use our imagination to help build us a positive shield against negative influences?
Warning: this gets tricky when the other person is expecting you to contribute back to the conversation, as this exercise is mentally challenging and quite distracting if you are doing it properly. (It is obviously meant to be distracting!) Am I not being sincere here? What’s the purpose in listening to negativity at all? It is scientifically proven to wear down our immune system and every successful person will tell you that they’ve used this skill in order to achieve their goals. There is no productivity that can come from absorbing negative energy so we must learn to treat it as such. Even if it’s coming from someone we love; we have to learn to recognize that we may have outgrown the need for their advise and their influences may not be coming from a loving and accepting place and that’s okay. We can still love them for who they are, but under no circumstances do we need to listen and be influenced by them. Try this exercise and learn to how to create a shield against someone’s energy when it is draining you. You will be amazed at how much stronger your love for them can be, when you are free from the weight of their influence.
Now that we have learned how to protect ourselves against purely negative external chatter, we have to learn how to identify those who are positive influences. To do this, we can use what I call the “Try-Anything” experiment. I encourage you to spend time with friends and family and tell them that you’ve been thinking about going in a new direction… make something up. If the “something you made up” actually holds significant value to you, see how they react. Who is encouraging you in your self exploration? Who gives you unconditional thumbs up and who is holding you back? If so, what is the reason? Ask yourself if they have your best interest at heart or if they may be hiding behind their own fear in some way. Take some time to figure out how people who love you really feel about you trying something new.
But hang on there, there is a part-two to this exercise; we’ve identified fear. Let me give you an example. One of my favorite television comedies, New Girl on FOX, did a very funny bit about how one of the main characters is in fact a police officer but in order to protect the worries and anxieties of his overprotective mother, he told her that he is a sports radio announcer instead. He dramatized this situation by fabricating an entire radio show just for her. Now, generally this is not a case of negative external chatter, because his own decision making was clearly not influenced by her fear. He wanted to become a cop and he did; we can assume that this was his destiny and he is a fantastic cop, and happily ever after, yada yada, The End. However, imagine if his mother’s love and influence was overpowering him and she was involved in his daily life and helping him make this decision. She would have obviously discouraged his decision to become what he really wanted, and the reason is significantly different here. She of course wanted what was best for him, which in her opinion, was to keep her child safe from harm; but that’s just it. She thought she knew what was best for him. It turned out that because he became a police officer, he met the love of his life and is engaged to be married to her (remember we are talking about a fictional character here but it could happen to us, why not?) This clearly would not have happened if he allowed her fears and anxieties to influence him, even if they were purely out of love. Although he didn’t choose the healthiest way to deal with this situation, he was able to carve his own path and his mother eventually learned to the truth and had to accept his decision.
So the big part-two to the “Try-Anything” exercise is learning to identify the complicated negative influences: fear out of pure love for you, and learning how to confront this directly and authentically with the person involved. It is important to nurture the tension that may be hiding underneath this relationship and although you must treat this as you would treat all other negative external chatter, you must do so without directly dismissing it. This negative influence can be released if understood by both parties involved and is truly, a very flattering form of affection not to be forgotten. The next step here is to understand and appreciate how wonderful it feels to have someone worry about you, yet rise above the chatter and make your own decisions based on what’s best for YOU. If the decision you’ve made feels right in your heart, own it, and your newfound confidence will resonate with those who love you, even if it takes a little time. They will learn to trust your decisions and in the end, respect you more for it. This is an extremely hard thing to do and requires bravery. You may surprise yourself in learning what you are able to accomplish when you are able to stand up for what you feel is right.
Okay, so we are on our way to eliminating negative influences and identifying the positive, uplifting influences in our life. This next bit here is for those who unfortunately do not currently have a lot of positive influences in their life already. This is no good! It takes a village to raise a child, and I believe it also takes a village to raise ourselves. We never stop evolving, and we can always do better; be better. For someone that lives a very isolated life, it is going to be harder to find validation for the wonderful things you are doing. Who is there to tell you that you’ve done a great job on your last quarter? Who is there to tell you you’ve been acting unlike yourself? Who is there to tell you to wake-the-hell-up and realize that guy you’ve been seeing is just no good for you? If you can’t think of anyone who will tell you how it is, purely out of unconditional love for you, it’s time to find some new relationships. Let’s try the exercise I call “Surrounding Yourself With Like Minded Individuals by Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone and Introducing Yourself To New People”!! Chances are, if you enjoy working out, there are many other people at your gym that would love your encouraging company. If you are having a tough time at work, chances are, others are too. Meeting new people is never easy and takes courage, confidence, and a lot of time. If you are young enough to have a roommate, do it, even if you hate the idea; you never know who the universe will bring into your life. If you play a little guitar, there’s no better time to start a band. If you are retired, there are many activity centers in your community that will be able to offer support and friendship. If it’s been like…10 years since high school, but you know that chick you’ve always looked up to recently moved back to your hometown, just call her up. Do it. Stepping outside of your comfort zone often times requires baby steps. Regularly challenge yourself to say hello to someone new and start up a conversation. I’ve personally gone to bars by myself when I moved to a new town, no matter how weird I felt at first. I met some great friends that are no longer a part of my life today, but during that time were sincerely positive influences on my life and provided me with exactly what I needed when my loved ones weren’t able to be there for me. It’s important to realize that everyone, no matter who you are, needs others. Barbra Streisand says it best herself, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” It’s time to go out there and surround yourself with positively encouraging people and you will be on your way to your best self.